Friday, January 28, 2011

Frugal Friday: Cutting the water bill

So, in evaluating our budget for our Saving in 2011 goal, one of the areas I wanted to address first was our utility bill. The bills themselves gave me an answer as to where to begin: my water bill was through the roof.
Water is a bill that I haven’t really thought about much because usually when we lived in apartments, it was included in the rent. When we moved into the house, I remembered being told that “water is cheap” – which is true compared to electricity and gas. However, if you don’t keep track of your usage, it’s also a place where you can waste a lot. So, I decided to spend the month attacking it. Here are the steps I took to monitor and decrease our water usage.
(Note: If your water bill is through the roof, the first thing you should always do is check for leaks. Check all your faucets, see if any of your toilets are running. This is waste that’s just pure waste. However, if you’ve done that, move on and look at your usage.)

  1. Wash full loads. This is the easiest tip of all because not only does it not involve any sacrifice, it actually involves doing less work. Instead of doing laundry, just. . . don’t do laundry. I don’t like to pile it all up, but instead of doing laundry every day, I skip every third day. I also don’t run my dishwasher unless it’s full, and have been pushing to go from every day to every other day. This takes a little more planning so I can make everything fit and so I don’t run out of bowls.
  2. Use “light” cycle. Also a no brainer. I set my dishwasher to light cycle and my washer to “light soil.” These are shorter cycles that use a little less water. Probably not a huge difference, but for every cycle, it helps.
  3. Take back to back showers. With the weather as it is, it’s been taking especially long for our water to get warm, which means running the water for a while before we can stand getting in. If I shower immediately after my husband does, I don’t need to let it run first.
  4. Wash pots and pans while the dishwasher is running. Same idea as above. The water is already hot, so I don’t need to let it run before I can wash things.
  5. Scrape, don’t rinse. Another tip that involves less work! Most decent dishwashers don’t require dishes to be rinsed first. Scrape off all solid particles into the trash and throw them right on in.
  6. Lower your flow. If you don’t already have a super low flow toilet, you can make it a little lower by putting a brick or a plastic bottle of water in the tank. You might not want to do this with a low flow toilet because it will decrease your flushing action even more.
  7. Turn off your icemaker. Okay, I felt dumb about this one. It’s January. The ice that’s already in there will last me an awfully long time.
Moderate – These tips require a little work or sacrifice, but are definitely doable.
  1. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth, for goodness sake. This one is a no-brainer for me, but somehow it makes hubby feel better to have it on. Some gentle reminding, however, can work wonders. 
  2. Take shorter showers. Okay, I like luxuriating in a 30 minute shower as much as the next gal, but honestly with the baby, these days I like sleep better, so this one has been pretty easy to establish. I don’t wash my hair every day which makes this easier, but mostly if you just get down to business, your shower will be short enough. Aim to decrease by even 5 minutes a day.
  3. Wear your clothes more than once. I don’t mind at all wearing the same pair of pants or pajamas more than one day, but you have to go on your level of squeamishness here. Think about, though, those big bulky sweaters and hoodies that you wear over your own clothes. Hang them back up instead of throwing them in the hamper. They aren’t dirty. Honest.
  4. Practice smart dishwashing. There is a technique here. First, fill any pots with stuff stock on them and let them soak. Here’s the trick: use that same water to wet your utensils and miscellaneous stuff. Either fill the pot with the water running off everything else, or fill the pot, then swish the items around in the water. Then, with the water off, wash everything with a soapy cloth or sponge and set it aside. Turn on the water once to rinse everything clean at the same time. Maybe not the clearest explanation, but play around with it and look for ways to use less water. Often they are more efficient in terms of time as well.
  5. Use the same glass or mug all day. Use the utensils that you cooked with to eat with. Man, if it means less washing, I’m down.
Hard/extreme – may not be suited for all readers – or, you know, for me.
  1. Turn off the water in the shower while you wash your hair, lather yourself up, or shave your legs. I am a fan of this idea in theory, but dude, it’s cold. If you’re tougher than me, though, go for it.
  2. Don’t shower every day. I could totally pull this off, especially with being home now, except for hubby’s judging stare. Oh, and the spit up in my hair.
  3. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. Another one I’d probably try if I lived alone but that would not go over so well otherwise. Consider guests’ feelings as well, please.
Since I am clearly not so extreme, I’d love to hear your suggestions on ways to save water. My most recent water bill was much lower (err, so much lower I’m thinking the last reading might have been a fluke, but oh well! I’m still saving money and going green!), but I’m always looking for ways to conserve even more. For more frugal ideas check out Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom.